Headed to the State Fair? Check these tips for families
What rides can kids ride for free? Who needs a ticket for the Dorton Arena concerts? When should you go to beat the crowds? What's new? We have the answers to these questions and more for your 2014 State Fair!Posted — Updated
The 2015 fair runs from Thursday to Sunday, Oct. 25.
As usual, old favorites return to this year's fair (though at least one is in a new location). And new activities are planned. Here's a guide for families with some practical tips and don't-miss activities.
If you're going with really little ones, there are a few rides that adults can ride for free with kids. Parents can ride on all slides and merry-go-rounds for free when accompanying a paying child who is 40 inches tall or less. The Kiddieland Midway has about 25 rides, along with four games that are designed for young children (you'll need cash for those). The minimum height requirement for children's rides is 36 inches tall.
As you're divvying up your ride tickets, it's also helpful to know that kiddie rides will typically require two to four tickets each. Bigger rides are three to five tickets each and large, spectacular rides can be as many as eight tickets, according to the fair's website.
A trip to the fair can get expensive. You can save a lot of money by bringing your own drinks and food. I have packed a lunch before and then splurged on some Howling Cow ice cream or other treat.
You are welcome to bring diaper bags, backpacks, food, snacks, coolers and drinks (no glass bottles or alcohol). Just be aware that bags and coolers can be searched at the gate for prohibited materials. Mothers' Rooms for nursing moms (and those needing a quiet space to feed their baby), are located in the Scott, Martin, Expo and Graham buildings.
Strollers and wagons are welcome too. You also can rent one from vendors at Gates 1, 8, 9 and 10.
Free parking is available on State Fair, Carter-Finley Football Stadium and PNC Arena properties, but young children, especially, might enjoy getting there by bus. (In fact, it might just be their favorite ride all day). Parents will enjoy skipping the hassle of parking.
There are a couple of new ways to save money at the fair this year. On Friday, Oct. 16, all students with a valid school ID can buy admission tickets for $5 - that's half off the usual price. I suspect this will be popular this year as Friday is an early release day for many Wake County students. Also, from 10 a.m. to closing, Friday, Oct. 16, the midway will offer an unlimited ride wristband for $34. The wristbands can be purchased at the midway ride ticket locations inside the fairgrounds.
And there's still time to take advantage of a family four-pack deal. The pack includes four admission tickets and two ride sheets for $44 - $32 off the gate price and an $8 savings off advance cost. The packs are available through 11:59 p.m., Oct. 15. They are a print-at-home ticket.
Some popular discounts also return.
Also, Thursday, Oct. 15 is Preview Day, when the gate admission price is the same as the advance sales price. The Preview Day Ride Wristband will be $28. It's good for unlimited rides between 3 p.m. and midnight (weather permitting) on Oct. 15 only.
If you're not a fan of crowds, weekdays are the best days for families with children. If you're headed there on the weekends, get there before lunch. It starts getting really busy around lunch time.
The fair opens at 3 p.m., Oct. 15. On all other days, the grounds open at 8 a.m.; the exhibit halls at 9 a.m.; and the rides at 10 a.m. If you have early risers, get there at 8 a.m., have breakfast, walk the exhibits halls, hop on some rides and get out of there by lunch.
It's been four years since more than two dozen visitors at the fair got sick during an E. coli outbreak that was linked to a fair livestock display. So, even if you don't touch any animals, be sure to take advantage of the many hand washing stations through the fair - don't rely on just wipes or hand sanitizer.
The day to honor members of the U.S. military is Oct. 21. This year, the first 3,000 people through the gates will receive a 4" by 6" United States flag. The day also includes a parade at 11 a.m. that starts at the midway, weaves around to Dorton Arena, through Kiddieland toward Gate 11 and then back down through the midway.
Kids will enjoy taking a closer look at military equipment such as an Abrams Main Battle Tank, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, a Heavy Equipment Truck, Mini-C-130 Aircraft and more. You'll find them in the Grandstand area until 6 p.m., that day. There also will be music from the 440th Army Band and the Historical Uniform Revue during the afternoon at the Waterfall Stage.
The very popular pig races have moved from just inside Gate 9 to just inside Gate 10 behind the Scott Building. The fair's Folk Festival will be inside Dorton Arena during the day this year, freeing up a larger space and more seating for the pig races.
And if you're at the fair from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Oct. 19, drop by the WRAL-TV tent near Dorton Arena. I'll be there with my buddy Faye Prosser, the WRAL Smartshopper!
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